Unit 1

 In search of the American Dream: The USA c1917-1996

Theme 1: The changing political environment, 191780

  • The changing political climate from US entry into the First World War to Reagan’s election.
  • The changing styles of presidential leadership across the period.
  • The impact of American involvement in war on the general political environment and presidential government.

Theme 2: The quest for civil rights, 191780

  • The struggle for minority rights in the years 1917–80, with particular reference to African-American civil rights.
  • The changing nature and pattern of campaigning
  • The impact of major federal civil rights legislation
  • The influence of the African-American struggle on the search for non-African-American minority rights as well as the distinct reasons for campaigning by other minorities.

Theme 3: Society and culture in change, 191780

  • The transformation of American society.
  • Links with theme 2 regarding the experience of migrants and women.
  • Overall patterns of change along with the different experience for women.
  • The extent to which the USA was a migrant nation and the diversity of the immigrant experience.
  • The extent to which popular culture and broadcast news both reflected and influenced society.

Theme 4: The changing quality of life, 191780

  • The extent to which the quality of life in the USA in the years 1917–80 was affected by the economic environment and increasing aspiration.
  • Patterns of economic change and their effects on living standards, both general and specific to different groups.
  • The extent to which developments in leisure and travel affected the quality of life.

Historical interpretations:  What impact did the Reagan presidency have on the USA in the years 1981–96?

  • The main features of Reaganomics and his aims to reduce the role of federal government.
  • Reagan’s conservative social values and the influence of the Religious Right in the 1980s.
  • The extent to which Reagan’s economic policies were successfully implemented and the extent to which economic problems were overcome as well as Reagan’s economic legacy in the years to 1996.
  • The extent and impact of cutbacks in federal government and the extent and effectiveness of deregulation policies.
  • The extent to which Reagan’s social values influenced social change and affected the advancement of women and of African Americans and other minority groups.
  • The extent to which Reagan’s policies affected the both the nature of US electoral politics and the public perception of the role of the President up to 1996.
  • The nature of the debate on the extent to which Reagan’s presidency changed US politics.

The impact of the ‘Iran-Contra affair’ on attitudes towards the Reagan presidency. The impact of the Reagan legacy on the period 1989–96 with regard to continuity and change in policies and general trends.

Selected Readings & Links

Introduction to US History

The Khan Academy Overview of US History

Digital History: Thematic Timeline of American History

Changing Political Environment

American Political Parties and Elections

Prosperity Depression & the New Deal Ch 2 – Harding

Prosperity Depression & the New Deal Ch 3 – Coolidge

Prosperity Depression & the New Deal Ch 5 – Hoover

Prosperity Depression & the New Deal Ch 8 – The New Deal

The Men Who Built America A History Channel information sheet with links to video clips

McCarthyism & the Cold War

The Swinging Sixties

The quest for civil rights, 19178

PBS channel resources

Society and Culture


Timeline of Women’s Rights in America

A History of Women’s rights in America 

American Feminist Movement: Breaking down barriers

Rosie The Riveter….Not For Me!

Education Statistics

Student video (fake trailer for documentery on Feminism in America)


immigration to the US

Immigration to America in the 20th Century

Immigration in the early 20th Century

2000 census: Population based on ancestry

Wikipedia: Immigration 1850-1930

Wikipedia: Immigration 1930-2000


This is an excellent film from 1931 which really captures some of the issues facing the country during the depression. I have set it up at an interesting point when the protagonists are discussing rights, migration & socialism, but if you have the time, you should watch the whole thing.

Standard of Living


Causes of the Great Depression

More Causes of the GD

Grand Expectations Ch 11

Grand Expectations Ch 12

Prosperity Depression & the New Deal Ch 2



More Reaganomics

Even More Reaganomics

reaganomics what worked?

How Reaganomics Killed the Middle Class (Article)


Questions and mkschm for Unit 1 sections A & B

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